Arlington, VA

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Mechaniku is built on a simple frustration: no one likes waiting for their car to get worked on. So Mechaniku will work with users to have a mechanic sent out to change their oil.

The company is based along Columbia Pike, where co-founders Jesse Tyler and Clifton Hartsuff live.

“In a society fast becoming overtaken by technology I am shocked this is not already a common service provided in every city,” Tyler said. “We live in a world of convenience and I believe people will pay for this service because it ultimately makes lives easier. It takes a time-consuming and aggravating practice and simplifies it.”

The company currently only has one service: a full synthetic oil change in 30 minutes for $100. It’s a little pricey as far as oil changes go, which average a little under $50. But Tyler said the convenience is part of the cost.

“It’s about the convenience of having someone come to your home,” Tyler said. “We did one for a guy here on Columbia Pike… he said ‘I’ll pay $150 if it means I don’t have to get out of my pajamas and go sit in a line on Sunday morning.'”

Tyler said half of the $100 goes to the mechanic, while the other half goes to the company. The goal, Tyler said, is to connect qualified mechanics with freelance jobs to help make some money on the side.

In the future, Tyler said the company could expand to tire rotation and other light car maintenance jobs, but he’s in no rush to grow.

“I think several of the groups on the market with a similar model have made the mistake of trying to do everything instead of focusing on doing a service well and what they end up doing by trying to do everything is not doing a very good job of anything,” Tyler said. “We seek to be the best at offering on demand oil changes to our customers with the ultimate goal of providing excellent service and giving them time back.”

Tyler said the pricing and types of oil changes could also change over time as the company continues to refine its business model. The company’s app is currently available on Android and Tyler said the company is working to get it onto the Apple App Store on iOS.

“My father always told me not to reinvent the wheel,” said Tyler. “So we’ve taken an existing business and improved on it.”

Image via Mechaniku

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Morning Notes

What To Do If Your Car Flooded — “If your car was one of the many trapped by floodwaters on or below street level Monday, you should resist the urge to start it up once the waters recede… The best option, Townsend said, is to tow the vehicle to a reputable mechanic who can certify whether there is any damage to the many electronic components in modern cars and trucks.” [Washington Post]

ACPD Helps Out Flooded Family — “After learning about an Arlington family whose apartment flooded during today’s storm, the Outreach Team activated and donated toys to the children! The family is receiving additional assistance and will soon move into a new unit.” [Twitter]

TSA Stops Man With Loaded Gun at DCA — “An Arlington, Virginia, resident was cited by police after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a loaded handgun in the man’s carry-on bag at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on Sunday, July 7. It was the 11th gun that TSA officers have detected at the airport so far this year.” [Press Release]

Injury Investigation in Clarendon — On Monday morning, before the flooding, numerous police and fire department units responded to a condominium building at 1021 N. Garfield Street in Clarendon for a report of a man injured under suspicious circumstances. “The male was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No evidence of a crime was located during the investigation,” an Arlington County police spokeswoman told ARLnow. “Police continue to investigate how the subject sustained the injury.” [Twitter]

Arlington 11th Grader Wins at Chess Tourney — “Sam Schenck, an 11th-grader at H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, defeated Langley High School 11th-grader Isaac Chiu in a dramatic last-round game to win the K-12 competition of the 2019 Arlington Scholastic Open chess competition, held June 8 at Yorktown High School.” [InsideNova]

Amazon Visits Gov. Northam — “Today we met with @GovernorVa for an update on the first phase of #HQ2 plans. We thank the Commonwealth for our continued partnership and for providing a business-friendly environment as we build the future together.” [Twitter]

Monday Readership Stats — On Monday, just over 71,000 people visited ARLnow, mostly to keep up to date about the flood emergency. That’s nearly a third of the population of Arlington. Thank you for reading and making us your go-to local news source, we’re proud to serve the community!

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Arlington ranks high for lots of things — parks, fitness, bike friendliness, livability — but not so much when it comes to safe driving.

Allstate’s just-released 15th annual America’s Best Drivers Report ranks Arlington No. 168 out of 200 cities studied.

According to the insurance company, drivers in the county go an average of 7.4 years between car insurance claims (compared to a national average of 10.57 years) and have an average of 25.3 “hard-braking events” per 1,000 miles (compared to the national average of 19).

The good news: Arlington drivers are getting safer. The county’s 2019 ranking is an improvement over 2013, when it was ranked 10th worst in the country.

Arlington also ranks better than other nearby cities. Washington, D.C. ranks No. 199 and Baltimore is dead last at No. 200. Alexandria, meanwhile, slots in at No. 192.

In Alexandria, Route 1 (Richmond Highway) was said to be the most “risky road” to drive on. In D.C., I-295 was the riskiest road, according to Allstate’s data.

Top on the list this year: drivers in Brownsville, Texas ranked No. 1, going 14.9 years between crashes on average.

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So you have a Tesla or some other electric car, but where in Arlington can you charge it?

Most of the electric car stations are grouped around Arlington’s Metro corridors, according to ChargeHub, a website that tracks charging stations. Charging stations follow a line between Rosslyn and Ballston, for instance, and there are 22 throughout the Crystal City and Pentagon City area alone.

But finding stations outside of those areas can be a hassle.

One bank of electric chargers is located along Columbia Pike at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street). In Shirlington, an electric car charging station is located at the Campbell Avenue parking garage.

Additionally, there are three charging stations in residential North Arlington:

  • Discovery Elementary School (5301 36th Street N.)
  • Harris Teeter (2425 N. Harrison Street)
  • Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 N. Marcey Road)

There are seven Tesla-specific charger locations in Arlington.

  • Two Liberty Center (4075 Wilson Blvd) — Four Tesla connectors available to the public
  • Clarendon Square (3033 Wilson Blvd) — Two Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • Market Common Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) — 18 Tesla Superchargers
  • 2311 Wilson Blvd (2311 Wilson Blvd) — Three Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • 1320 N. Courthouse Garage (1320 N. Courthouse Road) — Two Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City (1250 S. Hayes Street) — Two Tesla connectors, available for patrons only
  • Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel (2800 S. Potomac Avenue) — Two Tesla connectors, available for patrons only

Meanwhile, if your car is charged and you’re looking for fellowship with other electric car enthusiasts, a local group of residents has formed the Arlington Solar and EV Charger Co-op, with the goal of making it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels and electric vehicle chargers.

The group is planning to hold an information session on Thursday (June 27) from 6:30-8 p.m., at the Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) to discuss solar energy, electric vehicles, and simplifying the “going solar” process.

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The video (below) was jarring: cars driving through muddy flood waters that nearly reached the tops of tires.

Even more jarring: this was happening along busy Columbia Pike, a route not noted for being flood-prone, during the evening rush hour.

The scene yesterday evening was captured on video by a passerby, showing floodwaters inundating a low-lying section of the Pike near S. Greenbrier Street. As commenters pointed out this morning, driving through flooded roads is a bad idea, but despite repeated reminders to “turn around, don’t drown,” drivers continue willfully operating their vehicles as if they were hovercraft.

(A spokesman with Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tells ARLnow the department is still investigating the flooding and “looking into whether there were any construction-related obstructions in the storm sewer inlets.”)

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage this morning offered the following tips for driving during heavy rain and potential flooding situations.

Residents are reminded to:

  • Sign up for Arlington Alert to receive emergency notifications including severe weather alerts.
  • Whenever possible, limit travel during times of severe weather.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast.
  • It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters. If you see a flooded roadway, seek an alternative route.
  • According to the National Weather Service, 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. Play it safe, Turn Around Don’t Drown.
  • If you see a hazard, report to the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Those tips may come in handy tonight. A Flash Flood Watch is set to take effect at 2 p.m. From the National Weather Service:

…FLASH FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 PM EDT THIS EVENING… * THUNDERSTORMS WITH HEAVY RAINFALL ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP ACROSS THE WATCH AREA THIS AFTERNOON AND LINGER INTO THE EVENING. LOCALIZED RAINFALL TOTALS OF SEVERAL INCHES ARE POSSIBLE. THIS COULD LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING, ESPECIALLY IN THE URBAN AREAS. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED. &&

The video from last night’s flooding is below.

Photo via Becky Haberacker/Twitter

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Someone rifled through at least five cars parked in the Dominion Hills neighborhood over the weekend.

The vehicles were all parked along the 900 and 1000 blocks of N. Madison Street, a couple of blocks away from McKinley Elementary School.

Only loose change was reported to have been stolen, though one of the vehicles — a truck — was also spray painted. Police described the spray paint as “alleged gang graffiti;” multiple tipsters tell ARLnow it was “MS-13” gang graffiti, though that could not be officially confirmed.

More from Arlington County Police Department crime reports:

Destruction of Property, 2019-06160101, 1000 block of N. Madison Street. At approximately 9:21 a.m. on June 16, police were dispatched to the report of a destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim’s truck had been vandalized by spray paint and change had been taken from within the vehicle. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.

Larceny from Auto, 2019-06174001, 1000 block of N. Madison Street. Between 2:00 a.m. – 4:00 a.m. on June 15, an unknown suspect entered a vehicle and stole loose change.

Larceny from Auto, 2019-06174010, 900 block of N. Madison Street. Between 11:00 p.m. on June 15 and 9:30 a.m. on June 16, the owner left their car open and an unknown suspect rummaged through it. Nothing was reported stolen.

Vehicle Tampering, 2019-06174013, 900 block of N. Madison Street. Between 11:35 p.m. on June 15 and 9:35 a.m. on June 16, two vehicles were rummaged through. Nothing was reported stolen.

“It appears most vehicles were left unlocked,” noted ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage, who offered some theft prevention tips. “Residents are reminded to keep their vehicles locked, remove valuables and report suspicious activity such as individuals attempting door handles by calling the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.”

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(Updated on 04/14/19) A European company’s car-sharing service will expand into Arlington in July after rolling into D.C. last October.

The service, Free2Move, allows users to pay a flat fee per the minute, hour, or day that they rent a car and allows users to drive anywhere as long as vehicles are returned to a legal parking spot in the District of Columbia. With the new expansion, users will be able to pick and park vehicles in Arlington, too.

A company spokeswoman said the latest expansion means that the app’s 15,000 users in the Greater Washington area “can now start and end their trip within D.C. or Arlington city limits.”

Free2Move’s parent company is French car manufacturer Groupe PSA, which makes Opel, Citroen, Vauxhall, and Peugeot.

Groupe PSA’s decision to open Free2Move in the D.C. area is part of the company’s first foray back into the North American market since leaving in 1991, per the business news site Global Atlanta.

Free2Move currently uses a mix of 200 Chevrolet Equinox SUVs and 400 Chevrolet Cruze sedans in D.C., per the spokeswoman.

The company has said it operates in 11 other countries and has served 1.3 million customers in total, according to an April press release.

Images via Free2Move

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a major vandalism spree in the area of Columbia Pike.

Police say nearly two dozen parked cars had their tires slashed over the weekend. It happened on the 4500 and 4600 blocks of S. Four Mile Run Drive and the 1100 block of S. Thomas Street, just south of the Pike in the Douglas Park neighborhood.

So far, police have no suspect description, only saying that the “investigation is ongoing.”

“Officers canvased the area for surveillance and witnesses with negative results,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Anyone who witnessed suspicious activity in the area on Friday evening into Saturday morning or has any information related to the investigation is asked to contact police.”

More from a crime report:

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY – VEHICLE (series), 2019-05110081/05110088/05110096, 4600 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive/4500 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive/1100 block of S. Thomas Street. At approximately 7:28 a.m. on May 11, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 8:30 p.m. on May 10 and 6:30 a.m. on May 11, the tires of approximately 22 vehicles parked in the area were slashed. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

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The county is moving forward with long-held plans to narrow lanes and widen sidewalks on Columbia Pike near the Penrose neighborhood, but not everyone is on board.

County staff presented an updated version of the plan last week to the Penrose Neighborhood Association. It calls for narrowing the lefthand travel lanes on the Pike east of S. Wayne Street down to 10 feet, and narrowing the righthand lanes, next to the sidewalk, to 11 feet.

The project is slated for the section of the Pike between S. Garfield Street and S. Quinn Street, staff told ARLnow, and the total Columbia Pike right-of-way width is expected to remain 56 feet width.

It’s also part of a years-long plan to improve the Pike and add more room for pedestrians and bicyclists. However, attendees at the meeting said they fear tighter lanes could mean trickier turning and more accidents for cars.

“The goal of the project is to make Columbia Pike a safer, more accessible route for all users by creating a balance between pedestrian, bicycle, transit and vehicle spaces,” said county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet in an email Monday.

Even after the presentation by the county, some local residents remained skeptical.

“No satisfactory or convincing reason was offered by the county regarding the plan to reduce the lane size,” said one man. “It is quite concerning that a main hub such as Columbia Pike is expected to suffer significant lane reductions that will likely create traffic backups and accidents.”

“At the meeting we discussed many scenarios, like could a school bus pass a garbage truck, could a Giant delivery truck make the turn into Adams Street, could an 18 wheeler pass a bus on the left,” Penrose Association President Maria “Pete” Durgan said, adding that county staff agreed to look into the questions.

Bailliet said the plan is based on “urban street design guidelines from the National Association of City Transportation Officials,” which “recommend that lanes should not be greater than 11 feet as they may cause unintended speeding and assume valuable right of way at the expense of other modes.”

Bailliet says the new lane widths have also already been rolled out in other parts of the Pike, including on the sections between:

  • Four Mile Run and S. Wakefield Street
  • S. Oakland Street and S. Garfield Street
  • Washington Blvd and Columbia Pike interchange

The plan was listed in the the bike component of the county’s Master Transportation Plan, which the County Board updated last week. In it, the county said it intends to build “wide multi-use trails, or wide sidewalks, along at least one side of Columbia Pike in the areas east of S. Wayne Street and west of Four Mile Run” for bikes and pedestrians to share.

“It is tackling a tough question,” the Penrose Neighborhood Association’s website said of the revised lanes. “With only a limited amount of right-of-way, how should that space be allocated? Turn lanes? Street Trees? Wider sidewalks? Bike lanes?”

The reason to widen the sidewalks, Bailliet said, was in part to allow a more vibrant and business-friendly streetscape, but also partially to provide a way for cyclists to connect with the designated bike boulevards that run parallel the Pike.

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Morning Notes

Caps Player Abandons Car on Glebe Road — “Monday was media day for the Capitals, their first practice of the postseason. [Lars] Eller was on his way to MedStar Capitals Iceplex when suddenly, his car broke down… in the middle of Glebe Road.” [NBC Sports Washington]

Task Force Ices Snow Proposal — “Thirteen of the 14 voting members of the task force ‘do not believe the county has made the case that snow operations on [the large government parcel at Old Dominion Drive and 26th Street North] must be expanded, especially given the small number of annual major storms.'” [InsideNova]

ACPD Marks Alcohol Awareness Month — “Alcohol Awareness Month, recognized each April, is a public health program designed to increase outreach and education on the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcohol. More than 300 establishments in Arlington County hold Virginia ABC licenses permitting the serving and sale of alcohol.” [Arlington County]

Amazon May Pay for Public Transit — “Amazon has actively promoted the use of public transit, such as by paying the full cost of its employees’ fare cards for light rail, buses and ferries — a perk that it is considering extending to new employees in Arlington. The company boasts that only a quarter of its Seattle employees commute to work by driving solo. Nearly 1 in 3 use transit, and more than 1 in 5 walk.” [Washington Post]

Arlington Touts Bike Benefits — “The County continues to build on the bicycle’s unique ability to provide clean short- and medium-range transportation that requires far less infrastructure and resources compared to automobile traffic.” [Arlington County]

Water Main Repairs CompleteUpdated at 8:35 a.m. — Repairs to a burst 12-inch water main in Crystal City have been completed, but several roads in the area remain closed. The water main break cut water service to several buildings in the area, including a hotel. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated 1:45 p.m.) Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about refinancing their car, which is why Ballston-based startup MotoRefi aims to make it as simple and painless as possible.

The company claims to save customers an average of $100 per month on car refinancing. MotoRefi works with credit agencies to take improvements in people’s credit score and other factors into account when it comes to car payments.

“A car is the most expensive purchase many people make, outside of their home,” said Kevin Bennett, CEO of MotoRefi. “Unfortunately, most people are driving around in cars with payments that are too high and are at risk of unexpected car expenses that could derail their finances.”

Bennett said reducing the amount people spend every month on car payments helps MotoRefi customers build better financial protection and save up to pay off student loans or other debts.

“We also reduce the risk that people will face a large unexpected out-of-pocket car expense, which is important because people have enough economic anxiety and risk in their lives,” Bennett said. “We help ensure that your car is an asset to your life, not a liability.”

According to Bennett, traditional refinancing can be confusing and lacks transparency. The process starts obligation free, with offers from lenders visible with no social security number required and no impact on a credit score.

If the customer chooses to go through with the refinancing, MotoRefi charges a $399 fee to cover the costs of processing documents and retitling vehicles, which is included in the refinanced loan amount.

Moving forward, the company is looking into platform expansions on the technology and analytics sides, as well as expanding into new markets and growing the local team. Bennett made sure to note that the company is currently hiring.

The company started in 2017 out of an office in Alexandria but moved to Ballston in 2018.

“We moved [to Ballston] because of its central location, the region’s impressive workforce and technical talent, proximity to the metro and the great restaurants and coffee shops the Ballston’s redevelopment has brought to the neighborhood,” Bennett said. “We’ve got a Philz Coffee, Sweet Green, Cava and a ton of other destinations our team loves. And we’re working on a sweet new HQ in the neighborhood, so stay tuned for more to come on that.”

Photo courtesy MotoRefi

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